An original and promising literary debut.



Narozny draws an intriguing literary debut from the unexpected milieu of yucks and pratfalls,  “browsers” and “sleeper jumps” of 20th-century vaudeville.

It is 1922, glory days for skits and novelty acts on stages large and small. But Swain, a one-handed juggler, scrambles for second-tier bookings, relegated to chase audiences after the performance of a child artist as gifted as a young Chaplin, a youngster named Jonson. Swain also is a drug courier, distributing vials of silver-blue liquid around the hinterland, vials he notches carefully each time he samples and then dilutes the contents. Narozny supplies ample back story for Swain. Twenty years earlier a major headliner as a wire act, and then he fell. Confidence gone, Swain partnered with Connor, a medicine show charlatan until, missing the vaudeville lights, he makes an unspeakable choice to return. The novel is divided into quarters, with Jonson père, soon to be Swain’s nemesis, the focus of the most compelling segment. Jonson too was vaudeville, in a husband-wife act, but his wife died in childbirth, leaving him with his son. Easing his pain with booze, Jonson takes work as a piano player in a high-society brothel, allowing his boy to be mothered by one of the girls. Jonson also becomes an ally of the madame, and she sends him back to vaudeville, accompanied by the boy already so talented as to be "a hytone note on a bill of hokum." Jonson is also to deliver the silver-blue narcotic and shadow Swain’s drug dealings, an easy task since he’s already suspicious of Swain’s intentions toward his son. There are murders, with the final two segments unreeling from the point of view of the boy and of a nameless detective identified as the Inspector. The story unfolds believably, albeit with a subtle shadow of near surrealism.

An original and promising literary debut. 

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-935439-48-6

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Ig Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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